Back in March, I didn’t have much hope. Locked out of my country, my school, stranded in Thailand, by the end of March, I succumbed to the idea that my time in an art studio, with young artists for the school year had come to an end.

In its place, a computer screen.

The smell of Sumi-e ink and pencil shavings, the texture of wet clay, the diverse colours spread upon pages, canvases, sketchbooks, the leisurely chatter amongst middle schoolers while they draw, paint, create…all gone. The smells, the feels, the sights, the sounds…I had lost my senses.

I would ZOOM regularly with friends all over the world.

In January there were questions.

  • What’s this I hear about a virus in China?
  • Are you safe?
  • What do you mean China is shut down.

In February, there was pity.

  • I am sorry you have to go through this.
  • Is there anything I can do?

In March, I was sharing advice about how to cope with a virus that finally had a passport. By April, I told friends to buckle in; this wasn’t ending any time soon. By May, I was hoping just to get home. Now, in mid-August, my immediate future is no clearer.

Nothing really makes sense.

I see friends starting new jobs, in new countries, able to fly, able to go home. But here, in Thailand, we have had to make a new home.

Nothing makes sense.

Alas, I don’t have time to make sense of it all, the 2020-2021 school year must start and as teachers are trained to do, we have to figure it out.

I have to figure out:

  • how to start a new semester of a new year with students I have never met knowing I can’t be with them for the foreseeable future
  • how to set up a new art studio I have never seen with 45 unpacked boxes filled with treasures and no idea where to put them
  • how to incorporate effectively the use of an Instructional Partner as I deliver newly created curriculum designed for students in this new digital era
  • how to effectively use and train a new teaching assistant who is both new to the world of visual arts and to our school
  • how to differentiate between the students who are present physically in an at studio I have never been in and for students who are still scattered around the world with limited art resources.
  • how to lead and inspire students who I can’t observe and guide in real time.
  • how to deliver meaningful, engaging content in four different classes in a synchronous teaching environment while in a different country
  • how to collaborate with a teaching partner I haven’t seen in 7 months who is in a time zone that does not complement mine
  • how to organize and run a yearbook and design class, to teach a very sophisticated program when I can’t be beside them to answer immediate questions

Most importantly, I have to figure all of this out while trying to get my family of four to the only home we have known for the past eight years through a web of uncertain finances, expired visas, flight availabilities, intrusive medical tests and quarantines.

But, as a teacher, I’ll figure it out. I have to.

Here’s my Online Learning Planner.

While creating new units for my students moving forward, I have focused on the following three tenets:

  1. All units are to be project based, thematic units.
  2. All units will follow the ISB Design Process of Define & Inquire, Develop & Plan and Create & Improve.
  3. All Units will be driven by Student Choice. Choice of media. Choice of Project.

I won’t feel settled until I am in my art studio again. Until I can splatter the walls with art, laugh with the kids, move about the artists…that is when things will make sense again.

Until then, I’ll just try to make sense of a situation in a world that doesn’t make sense.